Last weekend COVID 19 struck another blow when ten teams were withdrawn from the All Ireland Intermediate Championship and Premier Junior Championship.T
The Camogie Association have gotten some bad press recently over fixture clashes, and while I believe the fixture clashes could be prevented with some joined up thinking, some of the criticism was unfair as they were very open to negotiations and facilitating match rescheduling.
However, last week I think they made a mistake in their communication to a group of approximately 250 camogie players. Whatever about the decision to withdraw the teams from the Championship and why it had to be done but the way it was communicated was disappointing to say the least.
The format for the All Ireland Camogie Championships has been this way for a number of years. Everyone involved from administration to players, knew what was happening and that the large counties were lucky enough to be in a position to field two teams at intercounty level.
If there was a potential issue with counties having two teams in the Championship then surely this could have been clarified and addressed at an earlier stage. Two of the teams that were removed from the championship had actually played their opening fixture the previous week.
I can only speak from my own perspective but I know that if this had have happened to Down then I would be devastated at having this taken away from me.
Throughout the past couple of weeks and months I am very grateful at having sport as an outlet away from the strange reality that we all now find ourselves in.
For two hours, three times a week we have been able to go to the training pitch, into the fresh air and focus on something that is not COVID. It is a sense of normality and the benefits of the physical training along with the social connection is a release from everything that is happening in the world at the minute.
The training that Down has done to date has been no different to the training of any intercounty team in Ireland.
We have trained on our own for months during the initial lockdown, finding green spaces and gyms in order to keep us in shape for the hope of a championship later in the year.
The ten teams that were removed from the Championship are exactly the same as us. All of those teams harboured ambitions of competing and winning, they are no different to any of the teams left in the championship in any code.
I don’t believe that Niamh Mallon, Sara Louise Carr, Paula Gribben are lesser players that Ann Dalton, Gemma O’Connor or Niamh Kilkenny, but we play in a different division because of where we were born.
The remaining teams that have been left in the championship have been left with no confirmed fixtures or format as of the time of writing.
I know that 2020 has been difficult year for everyone but I do believe that this could have been handled in a better way.
On a separate note the WGPA released a report today “Levelling the Field” highlighting the difference between the womens and men’s games. At a glance the report has found that;
Females are spending up to €200 per week on fuel expenses in order to play intercounty. 93% of us don’t receive anything towards travel expenses.
77% of us pay our own physio.
69% pay for our own gym.
A lot of people will comment that women’s sports doesn’t generate the same money as the men’s game, but for generations people have been told that men’s sport is better and for decades men have had the majority of funding and support.
We recognise that a lot has been done in promoting womens sports and the WGPA has single-handedly raised so many basic standards since its inception.
We had something quite recently in Down which highlights the diffr ence between the female and male Gaelic players. Around 2015/2016 it was announced by Down GAA county board that they had reached an agreement on a sponsorship package that would cover all four codes.
There was great delight and optimism at the time that this was announced because it was the first time Down as a county had done this and it was a step forward to amalgamating the sports and everyone being equal.
Fast forward to 2020 and the launch of the new Down GAA strip and the only players who knew or were invited to launch were the men’s footballers and hurlers.
If we compare that to the recent Dublin sponsorship launch they had a player from all four codes and all four codes will be wearing the new jersey for the 2020 All Ireland Championship.
The old saying rings true that the more things change the more they stay the same.
Elite female players put in similar hours of training to our male counterparts but we receive less than a quarter of the government funding available.
Playing intercounty camogie or ladies football is unsustainable for a lot of players and we should no longer find it acceptable that we do it just because we love it.